By LALIT K JHA
WASHINGTON — The Club of Madrid has sent a letter, signed by 72 former presidents and prime ministers, to the United Nations urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to go to Burma to seek the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Condemning the recent arrest of Suu Kyi, the Club of Madrid, in a letter dated May 15, said: “We urge you to make use of every possible means, including considering to travel to Burma on behalf of the United Nations, to press for her immediate release.”
The letter released to the media on Sunday was signed by Ricardo Lagos, president of the Club of Madrid and former president of Chile; Mary Robinson, vice-president of the Club of Madrid and former president of Ireland, and Kjell Magne Bondevik, a member of the board of directors of the Club of Madrid and former prime minister of Norway.
The letter cited the October 11, 2007, presidential statement of the UN Security Council calling on the Burmese junta to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
“In defiance of the United Nations Security Council, the Burmese junta has not only almost doubled the number of political prisoners, but now also imprisoned and charged Aung San Suu Kyi with breaching the terms of her house arrest. Hearing of the court will start on 18 May, 2009. The charges carry a maximum jail term of five years,” it said.
Meanwhile, in advance of the trial of Suu Kyi more than 40 global celebrities on Sunday urged the countries of the world and the UN to speak in one voice and to demand that the Burmese democracy leader be freed immediately.
“We must not stand by as she is silenced once again. Now is the time for the United Nations and the entire international community to speak clearly and with one voice: Free Aung San Suu Kyi,” global celebrities said in a statement on Sunday.
Prominent signers included David Beckham, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Anderson Cooper, Madonna, John McCain, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Salman Rushdie, Meg Ryan and Steven Spielberg.
“Nineteen years ago, the Burmese people chose Aung San Suu Kyi to be their next leader. And for most of those 19 years she has been kept under house arrest by the military junta that now runs the country. She is the world’s only incarcerated Nobel Peace Prize laureate,” the statement said. “Last week Suu Kyi was taken to Burma’s Insein Prison to face criminal charges as part of a concerted plan to deny her freedom.”
Among other signatories to the “Free Aung San Suu Kyi” statement were George Clooney, Madeleine Albright, Wes Anderson, Drew Barrymore, Matthew Broderick, Sandra Bullock, James Carville, Michael Chabon, Daniel Craig, John Cusack, Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, Dave Eggers, Jake Gyllenhaal, Václav Havel, Helen Hunt, Anjelica Huston, Scarlett Johansson, Nicole Kidman, Ashton Kutcher, Norman Lear, Mary Matalin, Cindy McCain, Rose McGowan, Orhan Pamuk, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Robert Rodriguez, Meg Ryan, Liev Schreiber, George Soros, Meryl Streep, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Naomi Watts, Prof Elie Wiesel and Owen Wilson.